B.C.’s minimum wage is going up next month as part of a plan to hit $15 per hour by 2021.
NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains made good on his party’s election promise on Tuesday, saying the rate will go up by 50 cents, to $11.35 an hour, in September. The liquor servers’ wage will go up by the same amount to $10.10 per hour.
The previous BC Liberal government had pledged to boost the minimum wage by 50 cents in February, but Bains panned what he called their slow and unpredictable effort.
“We will give it a legal effect so that it will be implemented Sept. 15,” said Bains.
The rate will go up by “incremental and predictable increases,” he told reporters, with a “responsible, fair approach.”
B.C.’s minimum wage is currently the seventh highest rate out of 10 in Canada. The jump to $11.35 will put it at the third highest. Seattle has also promised to increase its minimum wage to $15.
The province will also start a fair wage commission to help employers prepare, he said, and help minimize the impact on small businesses.
“They can actually look at their structure and costs ahead of time,” Bains said. “Workers will have a few dollars more in their pockets and they will … boost our economy.”
The commission will explore how to settle the discrepancy between the proposed minimum wage and what is called the living wage, or what a family of four needs to earn to cover their basic expenses. The latter differs across the province, ranging from $17/hr mid-Vancouver Island to more than $20/hr in Vancouver.
BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said she’d like to see the gap between the minimum and liveable wage shrink.
“That is a discussion to be had after we get to $15,” she said. “I’m not in favour of $15 for some and $14 for others because $15 gets you just above the poverty line.”
She added she was pleased with the NDP’s announcement, though she wished the changes were happening faster.
Meanwhile, the head of Surrey Board of Trade said the increase won’t be easy for small business owners.
“We were originally advocates of a minimum wage increase when the Liberals were in power because we’re the lowest minimum wage in Canada as a province and we have the highest child poverty rate in Canada,” Anita Huberman said.
“We were, as a business organization, very different, supporting a minimum wage increase. But the move towards a $15 minimum wage, small business has to prepare now.”